A blog about the Master Programme in Digital Humanities at Uppsala University

Category: DH courses (Page 2 of 3)

Information Mediation and User Perspectives in the Digital Era

Like all countries in Europe and the World, Sweden has been deeply affected by the outbreak of Covid-19. This has of course also affected higher edudation in Sweden, that has now been recommended by the Swedish government to switch over to online education tools.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

For the students at the Master program in Digital Humanities this means seminars and lectures through the Video-conference tool Zoom. So even thought the world is changing and adapting around the students, their courses keep on going. This brings us to the topic of this blog post: this week a new course starts called Information Mediation and User Perspectives in the Digital Era . The courses is headed by Phd-student Ina-Maria Jansson as some of our long-time readers might recognize as the first editor of this blog.

Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay 

The purpose of the course is to provide a better understanding of information-mediating digital platforms and infrastructure that contain material of relevance to the digital humanities. It provides a historical perspective on the central role occupied by users in modern digital environments.

The course also discusses the importance of network ecology in connection to functionality and algorithms as well as provide relevant knowledge about participatory culture and practices.

Theories and Methods in Digital Humanities

Today the students start one of their most important courses in the Masterprogramme in Digital Humanities: Theories and Methods in Digital Humanitites. Course Coordinator is Olle Sköld and Nadya Charapan. Olle is also the programme coordinator for the programme as a whole. You can read more about Nadya on the blog here.

The course will have specific focus on those theories and methods of particular relevance to research in the digital humanities. Image by Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay

After completing the course the students are expected to have achieved, to name a few examples, in-depth knowledge of scientific theories and methods of relevance with to digital humanities and gained the ability to formulate an appropriate theoretical approach to a research problem and to select a suitable method for approaching said. research problem.

The purpose of this course is to give students the tools for their thesis work. Image by Daniel Nettesheim from Pixabay 

The course examines general theories and methods of relevance to the humanities and social sciences with a specific focus on those theories and methods of particular relevance to research in the digital humanities.

The course also functions as a preparation for the forthcoming master’s thesis course, as the student will choose a subject for their thesis and begin to formulate theoretical approaches and methodological choices. This will apply to students that take the one year masterprogramme as well as the two year masterprogramme.

In-Depth: Digital Implementations in Cultural Heritage

At the beginning of the spring semester, I asked the course coordinator for Digital Implementations in Cultural Heritage, Anna Foka, a few questions about her course.

Anna Foka is project manager Digital Humanities Uppsala at Uppsala University

What is your research background and how did you find Digital Humanities as an educational and research subject?

A: I am an Associate Professor (Reader) in information technology and the humanities, with a background in classics, history and archaeology as well as heritage and media studies. I have extensive experience of teaching digital humanities courses (Umeå, Gothenburg, Linnaeus, Zadar. and even participating in pedagogical research together with colleagues from Kings College in London and Stanford) since 2011 so this was not a first time. Obviously, I find the intersection of humanities and technology fun to teach. That said, I felt that students were not introduced to many hands-on courses before mine, and it was rather challenging to get them in a lab environment for the first time, but I  *hope* it turned out well!

How do you use digital tools or digital methods in your own research?

A: In too many diverse ways! Well… GIS methods and tools but also visualization tools. But of course also digital encoding and metadata science are key in what I do in terms of research. 

I am currently leading and/or involved in the following research projects: I am the PI of Periegesis (Funded by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Research Foundation 2018-21). What we do is we ascribe metadata to character strings using a platform for spatial analysis. I was a core member of the project Ancient Itineraries: The Digital Lives of Art History (Funded by the Getty Foundation 2018-9),I am currently leading and/or involved in the following research projects: I am the PI of Periegesis (Funded by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Research Foundation 2018-21). What we do is for this project is to ascribe spatial and heritage information to words. The platform we work with is called recogito, and is developed by Rainer Simon, Professor of IT in the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In so doing, we feed back into the platform.  I am further a core member of the project Ancient Itineraries: The Digital Lives of Art History (Funded by the Getty Foundation 2018-9).

For this international project, we run two institutes together with the Department of Digital Humanities in Kings College London, one in London and one at the Swedish Institute in Athens, in order to create language vocabularies (gazetteers) for art history artefacts on the move. Kings College Digital Humanities lab is building this platform as we speak, together with core members and institute participants. We are reporting back to the Getty Foundation on artefact ontologies that have a meaning in the digital age, with equality and diversity in mind but also tackling the complex issue of digital surrogates or looted antiquities. More anon! I

What was for you the most successful or meaningful part of the course?

A: I think when we studied GIS and spatial analysis. The students to expand their knowledge with Daniel Löwenborg’s ´s next elective in the autumn: Introduction to GIS. I’d like to believe it was certainly fun for them to learn how to make 3D objects from pictures! I think they’ve enjoyed that! Their final presentations made me happy and overwhelmed. They were smart, professional and very much hands on! I am hoping some of them will publish versions of their excellent essays on this blog and our DH Uppsala blog

What is the central theoretical viewpoint or practical method that you want the students to take away from your course into their coming courses in the program?

A: My course was about implementing technology for history, art, heritage and the museum sector more generally. I want my students to engage hands on with technology but also think critically. Too much theory makes humanities. DH instead is about the application of methods and tools to real problem solving. I am hoping that these skills will enhance pupils employability and that they’ve learned a thing or two about how to use tech to organize, visualize and to sensory-render the past. 

To read more about the course, you can read the post about the workshop the students attended at Uppsala Museum of Evolution

The Virtual Museum – Study Visit and Workshop

This week the students visited the Swedish Royal Palace in Stockholm, as a part of the course Visual Analysis: Materiality and Digital Humanities. Together with Associate professor at the Department of History of Art Johan Eriksson, they went on a guided tour of the museum part of the Palace.

During the visit, the students were asked to imagine creating their own virtual reconstruction based on some part of the palace. How would they do it and would challenges would they face? How would they approach these challenges?

The Royal Palace was finished in 1754 and is the residence of the Royal Family of Sweden Image: Tommy Takacs from Pixabay 

After the Study visit the students participated in a seminar by Johan, where he introduced his research project called The Virtual Museum.

Besides getting an introduction to Johans research project, the purpose of the seminar was to delve into the difference between digitized materials and non digitized materials and how their status as digitized or non digitized impact the knowledge production within art historical research.

Johan Eriksson works as associate professor at the Department of History of Art

The students were also able to try out a version of the virtual tour of the Royal Palace with Johan Eriksson and Anna Orghen, course coordinator for the course.

Some questions they were asked to consider in regards to the 3D-model was: What are the advantages of 3D-reconstruction in comparison to analog reconstruction? How can this model be developed further and what kind of interface would work best?

The Virtual Museum is built on a game engine and therefore very accessible

You can more about the goals and purpose of the course on this previous blog post.

Visual Analysis: Materiality and Digital Humanities

The spring semester starts today with a new course headed by Anna Orrghen, senior lecturer from the Department of Art History at Uppsala University.

The course introduces tools and methods for visual analysis in the humanities and digital humanities. Through laboratory elements and excursions, the course deals with the material and visual nature of objects in relation to the digital humanities.

Image by Couleur from Pixabay 

The emphasis in the course is on the skill of comprehending and problematising the meaning of digitisation’s consequences for humanistic knowledge production in relation to visual analysis.

In-depth: Tools and methods

Just before the christmas break, I got the opportunity to ask a few questions to Matts Lindström, the course coordinator for the course Tools and Methods: Critical Encounters.

What is your research background and how did you find Digital Humanities as an educational and research subject?

Matts Lindström is a media historian focusing on the cultural history of information

My background as a researcher and academic is in the History of Science and Ideas, and more precisely in Media history. So I’m not really a DH researcher per se. My interests are more geared towards using different theoretical and historical perspectives to better understand digital society and culture, including the recent formation of digital humanities as a new field of knowledge production (or even disciplinary field in its own right).

Also, I work as a coordinator for the Digital Humanities Uppsala network, so teaching on the Masters course was a natural fit in that role as well.

How do you use digital tools or digital methods in your own research?

I don’t, if by “digital methods” you mean quantitative methods, natural language processing algorithms, topic modelling etc. – i.e. various forms of statistical analysis or “distant reading”. I might in the future, however, as I am part of a few DH projects that are currently in development and looking for funding.

Also, I should add that I am what you could call “code literate”. So while working on my dissertation I sometimes used various home cooked scripts and open source tools to collect and occasionally curate digitised historical sources (the standard unix toolchain for text processing mostly, like wget, grep, regular expressions etc). This, however, had no theoretical or methodological implications for my research. It just made things easier, just like a word processor and the Internet makes certain research and writing operations much easier than for instance the historical combination of a typewriter and a library.

What was for you the most successful or meaningful part of the course?

Well we are still evaluating, but I hope that the most succesful part was the integration of historical, critical/theoretical themes with the practical workshops that we held.

Picture from a workshop by Anna Foka during the course

What would you say is the core of the course?

First, the course aims to make the students aware that there are various means — tools and methodologies — which can be leveraged in digital humanities research. And to give them some practical experience of using a few of these tools. 

Second, the course aims to make them aware that it is important that such tools and methods are framed and evaluated within the tradition of critical and historical perspectives that are the central area of expertise for humanists (digital or not).

The core then, I would say, is the integration of practice and theory through critical reflection.

As a historian of Science and Ideas and a media historian I believe it is always crucial to understand the conditions surrounding whatever knowledge production you engage in, be these technological or discursive. The historical conditions of possibility of knowledge – to put it in, I suppose, slightly foucauldian language (referring to the theories of philosopher Michel Foucault) .

For instance, if you are working with some sort of digital mapping tool it is important to understand that there is a long history (going as far back as the antiquity), both within science and the humanities of using various technologies and media for visualising and mapping space. Similarly the problem of managing huge amounts of data, which is integral to the whole Big Data theme, is a recurring phenomena in the history of knowledge.

So, I believe it is important to be aware of such things and to critically reflect on how digital tools, or any tool or media technology, affects and shapes your thinking, your writing – in the end, the actual knowledge that you produce as a student or researcher. 

This, I hope, is one of the main take aways of the course.

In-depth: Digital Cultural Heritage

Last week the course Digital Cultural Heritage ended. I got the opportunity to ask a few questions to the course coordinator Nadzeya Charapan, about the course and her own academic background.

Nadzeya is a guest doctoral student from Vilnius University, Faculty of Communication

What is your research background and how did you find Digital Cultural Heritage as an educational and research subject?

My academic background is in communication and heritage studies. Right now, I’m completing my doctoral research about the nature of visitor-museum encounters and visitor experiences in open-air museums in Sweden, Lithuania, and Belarus. Given the emerging shift towards visitor empowerment in the cultural sector and urge for participation, digital technologies provide enormous affordances for the co-creation of meaningful experiences and enhancement of memory institutions as an important facilitator of social and economic value generation. Embracing digital technologies in cultural heritage enhances the revitalization of cultural heritage by bringing innovation to tradition, enlarging accessibility and fostering new meanings. Drawing on this perspective, the underpinning idea of the course was to introduce students to the fast-developing digital cultural heritage sector and inspire them for further professional development in the domain.

How do you use digital tools or digital methods in your own research? 

Considering my intrinsic research in visitor experience, in my recent research (7th Estonian Digital Humanities Conference (Estonia), link to the abstract), I address the issue of complementarity and the complexity of visitor experience, discussing the relationship between the physical and digital facets of the visitor experience of the cultural heritage site, discovered during the VR and AR entanglements.  

Since most of my previous research is based on participatory observations and qualitative methods, I broadly applied qualitative research methodologies, inviting netnography and online surveys. Hence, I’m familiar with metadata analysis and visualization tools (for example, Palladio, Google Fusion Tables), text mining methods (for example, Voyant), and Phyton.

Nadzeya also emphases that the focus of her course was not instrumental but rather conceptual. In the planning of the first of semester, a more practical focus was placed on the final course called Digital Implementations in Heritage.

A group presentation from some of the students at the end of the course

What would you say was the most successful or meaningful part of the course?

Inspired by the principles of experiential learning, the academic activities of the course combined study visits to museums and cultural heritage sites (Gamla Uppsala Museum, the National Museum, Digital Archive), where students had an opportunity to explore the sites, meet and partake in discussions with the experts from Nordic Countries (for example, Dr. Karin Glasemann from the National Museum (Sweden) and Merete Sanderhoff from the SMK (Denmark)), and also learn about the history and culture of Sweden.  This practice-oriented approach has facilitated further interest in the subject and highlighted the demand in the DH skills and competencies, and introduced potential career avenues.

What would you say is the core of the course?

The core of the course was to frame the understanding of the legal, social and ethical considerations of digital cultural heritage, related to participation, contextualization, open access policies, and intellectual property rights. Despite the ubiquitous role of digitization for humanities, the course introduced a critical perspective on the production, preservation, and dissemination of digital cultural heritage.

Digitization of Cultural Heritage

Yesterday the student had a whole day at Museum of Evolution in Uppsala, as part of the course Digital Implementations in Heritage. They were able to take part in lectures from some of the staff and were shown a part of the museums collection.

Photographer: Helena Wangefelt Ström

At the end of the day the students took part in a exercise which was headed by Helena Wangefelt Ström, pdh-student and lecturer at Department of ALM. The students were instructed to suggest different layers of identities and data sets that could be attributed to different cultural objects

A selection of photographs of cultural objects. Photographer: Helena Wangefelt Ström

The goal of the exercise was to understand what the uses the different objects have and have had, for who and by whom these objects have been preserved and what context in time and space they are a part of.

Photographer: Helena Wangefelt Ström

Digital Implementations in Heritage

Today the final course on the first semester starts, and soon the students will go on winter break. The course coordinator for the course is Anna Foka, who some of you already know Anna from post about Collaborative Document Annotation back in October.

Just a few weeks left…

The course provides students with an understanding of the processes of implementing digital technology for art and heritage. Much attention will be placed on data organization and information studies as well as theoretical perspectives from aesthetics and museum studies.

By drawing on concepts like cultural entrepreneurship, national and international policies, global initiatives and paradigms for digitization, organisation, representation and design, the course will enable the students to present their own implementation plan in a digital heritage setting.

Study visit at the Swedish National museum

Last week the students got the opportunity to visit the swedish national art museum. The study visit was part of the course Digital Cultural Heritage.

Nationalmuseum is one of Swedens foremost art and design museums. Not only is it a museum, it is also a government authority with a mandate to preserve cultural heritage and promote art in Sweden and Swedish art abroad.

the students got a guide tour of the museums collections

After a refreshing lunch break the group moved on from the museum to the administrative building. There they got a peek behind the scenes in the storage facilities as well as a lecture by Dr. Karin Glasemann, digital coordinator on the National Museum, on the theme “Making art accessible in a digital world”.

Dr. Karin Glasemann shows the students backstage

The collections of the National Museum comprise of painting, sculpture, drawings and prints from 1500-1900 and applied arts, design and portraits from early Middle Ages up until present day. To read more about it, visit their web page.

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